Panama: International Congress on Controlled Environment Agriculture

Technological advances have made it possible to produce high quality food indoors. Controlled environment agriculture is gradually growing in Latin America and still has great potential, as stated by the president of the Foundation for the Development of Controlled Environment Agriculture, David Proenza.

With the use of computers, software and new technologies, you can control all the variables that affect the growth of plants, such as light, temperature, humidity, CO2 and nutrition, among others, allowing for a better use of the resources and achieving increased productivity thanks to the creation of a more favourable environment for plant growth.

In an interview, David Proenza said that all key issues for agro-food production and agro-businesses will be discussed at the International Congress on Controlled Environment Agriculture, to be held from 20 to 22 May in the Republic of Panama.

The event will bring together the most prominent researchers from Japan, the United States, Taiwan and the Netherlands, among others, in the fields of techno-agriculture and agriculture in controlled environments.

He explains that the technique, which has been promoted by the world's top universities, was created in Japan, where the Government donated 130 million dollars to the University of Chiba, and through a partnership with the Government, the institution and private companies such as Panasonic, Mitsubishi and others, signed an agreement for the development of technology for food production, which resulted in vertical farms, which is the following step in greenhouse production.

He explained that Japan currently has about 200 vertical farms, and they are currently also used in Taiwan, South Korea, some European countries, the U.S. and Panama, and has great potential to spread to Latin America and Mexico. They are vertical spaces that require no large tracts of land, and food is grown with the use of the latest technological tools.

The new agricultural production techniques already make it possible to grow a variety of products, including all kinds of lettuce, herbs, broccoli, carrots, watermelons, asparagus, onions, Ginseng or strawberries, among others.

Meanwhile, he added that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the U.S. is already testing a microclimate to produce coffee in a controlled environment, as well as automated processes using robots intended to increase food production.

The president of the Foundation for the Development of Controlled Environment Agriculture, David Proenza, said that the goal of the International Congress is to bring together leading experts around the world in Panama.

The idea, he said, is that producers, Governments and the private sector in Latin America can become aware of these new techniques for food production and make a joint effort to create a Centre for Research and Training.

"The potential is huge and every day there are more people interested; everything starts with training and this is one of our main goals: to lay the initial groundwork for the training of as many producers as possible, making them aware of the technology and teaching them how to apply it to consolidate new and thriving agro-businesses," he said.

He believes that any product that can be produced in the traditional way can also be grown using the new controlled environment techniques. Now is the time to innovate using new technologies that can help us reduce risks and increase profits, producing safe, healthy and better quality food.


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